NASA’s helicopter simply achieved ‘freedom within the sky’ in its third aerial journey over Mars

Left: Ingenuity on the floor of Mars. Proper: An illustration of Ingenuity flying.


  • NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter accomplished its third flight over the Martian floor on Sunday.
  • Sunday’s flight probably pushed the helicopter to its farthest distance but: round 100 metres.
  • Ingenuity’s chief pilot mentioned Friday that the helicopter would “expertise freedom within the sky.”
  • See extra tales on Enterprise Insider SA’s house web page.

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter efficiently executed its third flight over the floor of Mars on Sunday.

The helicopter made spaceflight historical past final Monday when it lifted off Mars and rose three metres above the planet’s floor. By no means earlier than had a spacecraft carried out a managed, powered flight on one other planet.

Then on Thursday, Ingenuity flew even increased – 5 metres – and moved sideways for the primary time.

Sunday’s flight promised to be the helicopter’s most daring tour but.

NASA hasn’t launched extra element, but when the flight went in line with plan, Ingenuity ought to have reached the identical altitude as final time, however elevated its most airspeed from 0.5 meters per second to 2 meters per second. It probably traveled 50 meters north, then flew again the way in which it got here and landed gently within the copper-coloured Martian mud.

The whole flight ought to have lasted roughly 80 seconds and lined a complete distance of 100 meters.

“Flight three is an enormous step, one during which Ingenuity will start to expertise freedom within the sky,” Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot, wrote Friday earlier than the third tour.

Ingenuity’s staff plans to push the helicopter to its limits – even when it crashes

The Perseverance rover captured Ingenuity in mid-air throughout its second flight on April 22, 2021.

Ingenuity has confirmed that aerial exploration is feasible on different planets, however its mission is way from over. Now NASA desires to achieve as a lot flight knowledge as potential to tell future space-helicopter efforts.

In as much as two extra flights over the following two weeks, Ingenuity’s controllers plan to push the helicopter as far and quick as it’s going to go. Within the course of, they anticipate Ingenuity will crash.

“We actually need to push the rotorcraft flights to the restrict and actually study and get data again from that,” MiMi Aung, the challenge supervisor for Ingenuity, mentioned in a current press briefing.

Ingenuity snapped the primary shade picture of the Martian floor taken by an aerial automobile throughout its second flight take a look at on April 22, 2021.


The fifth and remaining enterprise might take Ingenuity laterally throughout 300 metres of Martian floor, in line with NASA’s web site. Aung, nevertheless, mentioned she would “love” to push it over 600 metres.

By the fifth flight, the helicopter “could be unlikely to land safely, as a result of we’ll begin going into un-surveyed areas,” Aung mentioned in a preflight briefing on April 9.

Rushing up may even problem the chopper’s mechanics and its navigation system.

“If we do have a foul touchdown, that would be the finish of mission,” Aung mentioned. “The lifetime will probably be decided by how nicely it lands, just about.”

A looming deadline for the final two flights

An animation of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter exploring the Martian floor.

Ingenuity’s flights provide only a peek on the potential of future area helicopters, which might discover elements of Mars and different planets which might be inaccessible to rovers. Caves, canyons, mountains, and rocky terrains might all be the area of a brand new era of space-drone explorers.

However the 4-pound helicopter – roughly the scale of a tissue field – is developing on a looming deadline.

Preparations and a delay attributable to a software program subject consumed the primary two weeks of NASA’s 30-day window to conduct as much as 5 flights. Lower than two weeks stay earlier than Perseverance – the rover that carried Ingenuity to Mars – has to proceed on its important alien-fossil-hunting mission.

Aung mentioned Monday that there needs to be sufficient time to squeeze in all 5 flights as deliberate.

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